2021 – Infrastructure: The Big Call

It is no mistake that in recent years the Infrastructure portfolio has also been held by the Minister of Finance.

Infrastructure has rightly been described as the “backbone of economic growth”.

Resilient infrastructure that caters for growing populations is critical to the workings of a modern economy. Everything from transport, energy, water and the construction of houses, commercial and industrial buildings, hospitals, schools and more comes under the purview of the Cabinet Minister who holds the infrastructure portfolio.

It is a challenge that Labour’s Grant Robertson is relishing as he is poised to commit a multibillion-dollar investment into light rail in both Auckland and Wellington.

National’s Bill English kicked off the trend. When he became Prime Minister in 2016, he appointed his successor Steven Joyce as Minister of Finance and Infrastructure. Their era was notable for the “roads of national significance’ — massive highways across many parts of New Zealand.

But there is now a new wave of nation building underway.

In the Herald’s 2021 Infrastructure report we talk to both Robertson and his colleague Transport Minister Michael Wood on the imminent decision Cabinet will make on light rail for Auckland. We also talk with Tommy Parker who is the director of the Auckland Light Rail Group on how the project will speed up urban development in the city.

The controversial Three Waters reforms and a second harbour crossing are also on the Government’s agenda. We look in some depth at Three Waters and the impact it will also have on local government.

It has become a truism that New Zealand suffers from an infrastructure deficit. National’s Infrastructure spokesman Andrew Bayly suggests the strategic value of water should be assessed. He wants to see projects developed in a more timely manner.

Financiers are playing their part. A Northland geothermal plant and solar installations across the far North, Coromandel and Bay of Plenty are being supported by major banks. These developments are critical as they assist the decarbonization of the NZ economy.

Women CEOs are now leading some major infrastructure companies in NZ. Margaret Devlin, chairs Infrastructure New Zealand with Claire Edmondson as GM. Not only are they leading the organisation but they are also generating thought leadership through Building Nations and other initiatives.

City Rail Link’s Sean Sweeney outlines how Covid-related issues have materially impacted the project. “It’s a numbers game for CRL,” he says.

Moving to a low carbon economy is also center stage for Chinese bank ICBC and GHD.

Also in the Herald report, the Infrastructure Commission outlines the challenges New Zealand faces meeting demands for key construction materials for infrastructure, with a risk of delays to major projects.

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